*Armed Forces poised to battle ESN —Navy Chief
*9 AK-47 rifles, 10 IEDs, 17 AK-47 magazines recovered from suspects— Police
*No murderer will go unpunished…we’re closing up on them —IGP
*Our members never killed security men —IPOB
By Kingsley Omonobi & Chimaobi Nwaiwu—ONITSHA
The Police have arrested 16 persons, including a pastor and some the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, members, suspected to have been behind the killing of security personnel in the South-East.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, yesterday, read the riot act to the Indigenous People of Biafra,IPOB, and Eastern Security Network, ESN, warning that the Nigerian Navy and other sister agencies were determined to enforce security in the region and protect Nigerians.
Recall that about 20 policemen and four Naval personnel had been killed by gunmen suspected to be ESN members in the South East in the last three months.
The warning by the naval chief came as operatives of the Nigeria Police Force arrested sixteen suspects, comprising some IPOB members, a pastor and others, for complicity in series of violent and unprovoked attacks on security operatives and facilities in some states of the federation, particularly in the South-East.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State at Governors Lodge, Onitsha, weekend, Vice Admiral Gambo said it was President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to the service chiefs after their inauguration, to put heads together to change the deepening insecurity in Nigeria.
Gambo, who visited the Onitsha Naval outpost, said his visit followed recent attacks on security personnel and formations in the state during which four naval officers lost their lives in separate attacks by unknown gunmen.
“I have to be here to reassure our staff at the Naval outpost that have been here since 2010 to double their efforts and be on the alert based on the potent threat we are observing now from Eastern Security Network, which is the security arm of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
“We are working in conjunction with other armed services as well as security agencies to make sure we bring lasting peace to the states that have been peaceful for quite a long time now and this, of course, is in line with Mr President’s directive.
“This visit is very timely, though with deep reflection because of the loss of our men and platoon weapons. You must be on alert and double our efforts on criminal elements attempting to truncate the existing peace in the states, even though the attacks were not particularly on us alone.
“We are working in conjunction with the armed forces and security agencies to ensure lasting peace in this state and others in the South East. I am here on operational visit to the Onitsha Naval outpost.
“I wouldn’t have been here but for expediency, following the two separate incidents we had last week that led to the loss of some of our men and two platoon weapons.”
Pastor, IPOB members, others arrested
Meanwhile, the Police have arrested 16 persons, including a pastor and some IPOB members, suspected to have been behind the killing of security personnel in the South East.
Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba, who disclosed this yesterday, said: “The suspects – Ugochukwu Samuel, a.k.a Biggy, a 28-year-old native of Arochukwu LGA in Abia State; Raphael Idang, a 31-year-old native of Odukpani LGA of Cross River State; Cletus Nwachukwu Egole, aka ‘Alewa’, a 60-years-old native of Orlu in Imo State; Michael Uba, 33yrs from Imo State; and twelve others in the course of investigation were implicated in multiple felonies committed across several states in the South-Eastern part of the federation.
“The suspects were arrested in various parts of the country, following sustained and intelligence-driven sting operations.
“Police investigations clearly established and linked the suspects to several incidents of attacks and murder of security personnel as well as stealing, unlawful possession of firearms, arson and malicious damage to operational assets of military and law enforcement agents.
“Specifically, investigations revealed that the duo of Ugochukwu Samuel, aka, Biggy and Raphael Idang were among the criminal elements that attacked policemen on duty at a checkpoint on December 24, 2020, along Orlu-Ihiala Road in Imo State where two police officers were killed and a Police Hilux patrol van set ablaze.
“In addition, both were part of a larger group that attacked a police reconnaissance team on January 13, 2021 killing one police officer.
“Ugochukwu Samuel, a.k.a Biggy, who sustained a bullet wound during an attack by his gang on a military convoy in which some soldiers were killed and weapons carted away, was subsequently arrested while receiving treatment in a hospital.
“Both suspects confessed to being active members of IPOB and ESN.
“Cletus Nwachukwu Egole, aka, Alewa, a pastor with the Holy Blessed Trinity Sabbath Church, Orlu, Imo State and Michael Uba, a prophet with the Association of Jewish Faith who were also arrested, are two of the masterminds of the various attacks on security personnel.
“In addition to providing spiritual cover for the gang, Cletus Nwachukwu Egole, aka Alewa’s house was used by the gang members to plan their nefarious operations.
“He also donated his late brother’s farmland for use as a hideout and training camp for the gang.
“A total of nine AK47 rifles, five other sophisticated firearms, 17 AK47 Magazines, 549 AK47 live ammunition, 10 Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, camouflage bulletproof vests, walkie talkies and other incriminating items were recovered from the suspects.
“Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, has reiterated that the Force will not tolerate any further attack on its personnel or any citizen by any individual or group under any guise whatsoever.
“He assured that law enforcement agents have gathered sufficient intelligence on the attackers and are closing in on scores of suspects already implicated in the attacks either directly or indirectly for financing, aiding and abetting the criminals.”
Stressing that no murderer will go unpunished, the IGP enjoined parents/guardians as well as traditional/opinion leaders to weigh in and prevail on their children/wards to desist from towing the destructive paths of crime.
“All the suspects will be charged to court on conclusion of investigations,” CP Mba said.
Our members never killed security men —IPOB
However, reacting to the alleged arrest of IPOB and ESN members for killing security men and snatching their guns in the Southeast, IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, dismissed the allegation, saying it had always been the style of security agencies, particularly the Army and Navy, when they are caught napping in their duties.
“Nigerian security agencies are very good at labelling innocent groups and people with fake news and information when they fail in their duties.
“IPOB members are not involved in any attack or killing of Police, Navy and Correctional Service officers, snatching their guns and burning their stations. What will we gain from committing such crimes?
“IPOB is led by a very decent man who does not have the mentality of crime because he was brought up well and in civilized country, where life is valued.
“IPOB has not considered violence and the use of arms and ammunition. What are we going to use them for as a non-violent group that is seeking bloodless actualization of Biafra?
“Nigerian security agencies, particularly, the Police, Army and Navy, should stop their recent blame game against IPOB and ESN for being caught unawares by criminals who cashed in on their carelessness at duty posts and they paid the supreme price with their lives and their weapons.
“IPOB does not have and will never have a hand in their misfortunes. They should rather stop accusing IPOB and ESN and correct their mistakes, otherwise, the criminals after them will strike again and still catch them unawares.
“Every sane individual in this country must know that Nigeria security agencies have deceived many Nigerians. We are warning them to leave IPOB alone. IPOB remains committed to restoring Biafra sovereignty and independence but not through these distractions they are trying to bring into the system.
“It was the General Officer, GOC, Commanding 82 Division Nigeria Army, Enugu, that summarised what happened to the military, Police in Anambra State when he said he has gone round the state and discovered that soldiers were messing up.
“They were busy exhorting innocent people, while daredevil criminals were on the rampage against them. So, they should shut up and stop blaming IPOB. We do not need their guns and do not shed blood.”